Legislators unimpressed by Quinn's pay suspension
State lawmakers for the most part were underwhelmed by Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to suspend their pay until they come up with a solution to the state's $100 billion pension problem.
"I'm not exactly surprised," said Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana. "I think it was rather petty of him to do.
"Once again, he held a press conference while some of us are back here in our district, working. We work a lot. We do the work when we're in Springfield and in our districts, and he holds press conferences."
Jakobsson said she thought a 10-member bipartisan conference committee that is examining possible pension solutions "is very close to getting one that is probably going to be something that many people can support."
Jakobsson said she has been in contact with state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, who is a member of the conference committee, "and she is listening."
Nekritz called Quinn's actions "an unnecessary distraction" that "do nothing to move us toward a solution to our pension crisis."
"Each of the conference committee members is committed to a compromise in the near future that addresses this problem in a meaningful way. Our work will continue unimpeded," she said. "We would urge the governor to join us as we push to the finish line to really do what is right for Illinois."
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, had a similar take on Quinn's move.
"What's disheartening about the way the governor is addressing this issue is that twice at the committee level I've asked for the governor's plan, what he was willing to sign," Brady said. "Passing the committee is one step. Passing the General Assembly is another. Getting members to take what is presumably the toughest vote of a lifetime is impossible with knowing if the governor is going to veto it like he did with concealed carry."
Brady said Quinn needs to meet with the conference committee members.
"This crisis is not going to be solved by press conference. It might help his political agenda, but it's not going to solve a public policy crisis," said the Republican who lost to Quinn in the 2010 gubernatorial election.
Brady said "there is some agreement on some common ground" among conference committee members.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, called Quinn's move "unproductive"and "political grandstanding."
"Responsible leaders know that unworkable demands will only delay progress," said Cullerton. "Our efforts on pensions will continue until we've reached our goal. In the meantime, the work of the pensions conference committee shouldn't be undermined or deterred by today's or future political grandstanding."
But House Speaker Michael Madigan, who supports a pension reform plan opposed by employee unions and senators, offered a more favorable view of Quinn's actions.
"I, along with Representative Nekritz, (House Republican Leader Tom) Cross and the members who supported House Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 1, have been the only lawmakers willing to take a difficult vote that would lead to solvency in our pension systems," Madigan said. "The governor's decision follows my efforts and I understand his frustration. I am hopeful his strategy works."